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Reviews: Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 - Paavo Järvi

Reviews: 3

Review by hkpat March 31, 2010 (5 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) lived a life of dichotomy between the composer and the man. The impact and complexity of his creative art evolved as the direct consequence of his predecessors - Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner. During the span of 72 years, his compositions reflected a voice beyond his time. This was a voice that encompassed the grand gestures of the last stages of Austro-German Romanticism. Bruckner’s Ninth, presented here as the sequel to an earlier Seventh, is the latest installment released by Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) on RCA. Captured live in a series of three performances during November 27th-29th in 2008 and extracted into hi-definition SACD quality, this performance enforces a symbiotic relationship between imageries and the power of music. [Interesting - since neither RCA nor Sony are issuing any U.S.-originated recordings on SACD any more...Ed.] Gates to heaven and the omnipotence of the Divine were prevailing ideas that lingered through the life of Bruckner, and this reached the pinnacle with the Ninth.

These associations came naturally as a consequence of his background as an organist of Baroque St. Florian’s Priory and his devotion to Catholicism. In this edition by Bruckner scholar Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, the spiritual and prophetic dimensions of the Ninth were carried into vast expanses.

Structured in three long movements, Bruckner started the work in 1887, but did not complete it until the end of 1894. What strikes one from the recording sound here was the luscious horns that nicely contrasted and cushioned the softness of the woodwinds. Transparency in the string passages was another strong asset in this performance, starting with the “Feierlich; misteriosi” first movement, then breaking off into a frantic display of rhythmic synchrony in the “Scherzo” second movement. The “Adagio” third movement was given an ephemeral reading by the musicians – it was a blending of beautiful horn passage work flanked by a bed of lyrical strings that emerged with radiant energy. This perhaps corresponds with the view Järvi had in mind about this movement in particular, which he explained “… as if Bruckner is trying to look upwards into the future. There is a strange sense of [unknown], that I find straight from the beginning: there is something cosmic about the opening of this symphony. There’s a prophecy in there, certainly…” This prophecy was drawn to a climax in this very last movement of the Ninth, a kind of portal that provoked a direct communion with a higher divine power. Järvi and the FRSO paid homage to a composer and his final tribute to the symphonic form, and this recording concentrated these forces in unison.

By: Patrick P.L. Lam

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Review by harold July 14, 2012 (1 of 7 found this review helpful)
Just got around to auditioning Paavo Jarvi's Bruckner Nine with The Frankfurt Radio Symphony, (RCA/Sony SACD 88697542572.) Recorded live with a very respectful audience, the, (IMO,) splendid performance is well served with you are there engineering - ideal for music intended to, as the composer is said to have written, rattle "the gates of heaven." It is also believed Bruckner may have, in his own way of course, settled the so called discussion of his unfinished three movement Ninth Symphony by refering to the Adagio as his "farewell to life," in spite of an incomplete fourth movement. Maestro Jarvi, in this performance, leaves little doubt in my mind that the three movement Bruckner Nine, dedicated to "Dem Lieben Gott," is as close to perfection as anyone could hope for.

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Review by JohnProffitt July 15, 2012 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Once again I would like to add the historical and musicological perspective against the romantic nonsense passed on for decades regarding Bruckner and his Ninth Symphony. The composer most assuredly did not -- in any shape or form -- consider the Ninth "finished", "complete", "satisfactory" or, God forbid, "theologically sound" in its three movement form. How do historians and musicologists know this? They study the written record; the actual manuscripts; and the testimony of those who knew the composer in the last years of his life. And now we can listen to the music Bruckner actually wrote for the finale of the Ninth and judge for ourselves.

Regarding the "Farewell to Life" -- this is the superscript the composer wrote above the lamentoso theme of the Adagio, not a name applied to the movement as a whole. This same minor-key lament is transformed into a major-key grand chorale, a "Resurrection Theme" as it were, and centerpiece of the finale. Quite obviously, Bruckner, as a good Catholic, was not "finished" with his Farewell.

Regarding the chronology of the composition of the Ninth -- Bruckner finished the Adagio in late-1894 and began thereafter to take up the final phase of work on the fourth movement, sketches of which date back to as early as 1891; ie, he quite obviously planned the Ninth as a four-movement symphony from the beginning. The final phase of composition of the Finale would occupy Bruckner from May 1895 until the day of his death, 11 October 1896. Bruckner was determined to finish his greatest symphony, dedicating it "To the Dear Lord" and praying for strength to bring it to completion. What he did leave behind is much more complete -- more definitive -- than, for instance, Mozart's Requiem, Puccini's Turandot or Elgar's Third Symphony. Specifically, approximately 600 measures of short score, with 172 measures of that fully orchestrated. The Coda is completely missing and believed to be several pages of manuscript stolen from Bruckner's apartment in the days immediately following his death.

Two musicologically sound completions exist and should be heard to properly appreciate the Bruckner Ninth in its a form as close as possible to the composer's intent: the SMPC edition, heard in the recent Simon Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic SACD and RBCD from EMI (an excellent performance); and the William Carragan edition, heard in the recent Gerd Schaller/Ebrach Festival RBCD from Profil (likewise excellent). The two editions, developed by completely independent processes, sound essentially the same except for the approach to the Coda -- and this is understandable, because over 2/3 of the music -- glorious music! -- is pure Bruckner! And not to be missed.

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